If only we could count the times we’ve heard our colleagues say, “As a principal, it’s lonely at the top.”
Well, for me, (Onica), I am no longer a part of that lonely tribe. One year ago, my new tribe became #MomsAsPrincipals, and I had no idea how my life, both personally and professionally, was about to change. Change begins with having an open mindset. I was gifted Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, and while reading it, it became overwhelming evident that mindset matters. I read and reread chapter 2, Don’t Live on an Island. Last year, I was embarking on my fourth year of principalship, and yet, I was still on an island. Why was that? In my typical way of doing, as I read the text, I created a list of bulleted action items in the back of the book; bullet number six – What is Voxer?
What if we never joined #MomsAsPrincipals?
What if we never “met”…
What if we didn’t share our successes and #failforwards…
These are the questions I (Cindy) think about as I reflect on over a year of connecting.
I (Cindy) began this journey of connectedness awkwardly requesting to join a group of moms on “Voxer,” I never thought I would find my educational “soul sister.” There is something special about Onica Mayers and her journey that captured me the moment she joined our group. She was everything I valued in education, held my core beliefs, and challenged me to take on risks that would benefit the kiddos at Vero Beach Elementary throughout last year. From a distant group of moms as principals, I found a mentor and connection that I know has made me a better leader.
I (Onica) saw a tweet from @LindseyStumpenhorst and read her blog. I leaned over and showed my husband, “See I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a small crazy group of people that dare to be both moms and principals.” That sparked the courage to request to join the group #MomsAsPrincipals and I immediately felt connected. As I listened daily, I began to recognize the members’ voices….but there was one voice that stood out! Sometimes, based on the hashtag that introduced a vox, I would skip it because it wasn’t a topic that pertained to me; but whenever I heard, “Good morning moms, it’s EmerSizzle from Vero Beach,” my ears perked up. When she shared something that was happening on her campus, a mom guilt experience juggling the two worlds, an #Eduwin of the day…it always seemed like the same things were happening in my life and listening to and learning along with CIndy for the past year has made me a better leader.
Onica and I joke that we are living in parallel universes, from Vero Beach, Florida to Houston, Texas. We could have never known how much we would rely on each other when our schools and communities would need it most.
There was no surprise that the first one to reach out as I (Onica) endured the emotional roller coaster of Hurricane Harvey was EmmaSizzle. Cindy’s words were just what I needed to hear, “You’ve got this and I’m there for you.”
The moment I (Cindy) found out about Hurricane Harvey and the devastation to Houston, I knew Vero Beach Elementary had to help! Our school wholeheartedly adopted Kirk Elementary. As I told my students about my far away friend and the connection I have with her, they too felt connected and inspired. Our staff rallied and promoted and we were able to collect quite a bit considering 92% of our own students are on free and reduced lunch in our Title One School.
Just days after organizing the event, we discovered that Mother Nature had other plans, and that Vero Beach Elementary was on the direct path for a category 5 hurricane. Immediately, our efforts shifted. And, as karma would have it, I (Onica) had the opportunity to pay forward the support Cindy had given to me as I prepared to lead a school community who needed to reconnect after a natural disaster. My daily voxes became, “Let me know you’re safe. You’ve got this. I’m there for you.” As the eye of Hurricane Irma blasted Florida, I sat on pins and needles when I didn’t hear from her daily. There it was again…parallel lives.
My (Cindy’s) school community was overwhelmed with the love and support that poured out of Kirk Elementary towards VBE. We felt that we had others looking out for us, sending us love and positivity over the networks of Twitter and Facebook. We became more than two Moms connecting… our school communities had become connected families!
It is almost eerie that we share the same values as campus leaders, No Excuses. We share ideas about supporting teachers and struggling students, getting parents more engaged, and inquire about each other’s personal kids. And over the past year, we have both moved our campuses forward… Kirk Elementary was removed from the district’s monitored campus list for showing significant academic growth and Vero Beach Elementary moved from an “F” to a “C” school in just one year.
What if we didn’t connect?
Would our schools have had the successes we experienced?
Would our staff and kiddos felt as supported and valued?
Who would have ever thought that a connection on social media would lead to this?
Are you still on an island? It’s up to you to get off. If you are a leader, teacher, parent, you don’t have to walk the path alone. We are better together.
Guest Post Written By:
Principal at Kirk Elementary School
Principal at Vero Beach Elementary School
Vero Beach, Florida